Dolores Prida saw and heard much to impress her in 1976 in Caracas, Venezuela, where she was reporting on an international theater festival for Visión, a Latin American newsmagazine. However, she was surprised to note that not a single one of the plays she viewed took up issues then being aired by the feminist movement. At the time, Prida was actively involved with feminism on her home turf of the United States, and she knew that the same issues preoccupying women there were also preoccupying women in Latin America and elsewhere around the world. When Prida discovered that plays addressing women's issues within Latin American contexts were scarce, she was determined to write a play that would help remedy that scarcity. Beautiful Señoritas is that play. It was staged in New York City in 1977 at the DUO Theatre.
In the essay "The Show Does Go On," published in Breaking the Boundaries, Prida's description of Beautiful Señoritas reveals its particular feminist focus. That focus is on female gender roles and stereotypes, particularly as they pertain to Latin women. Beautiful Señoritas, she says, is "a modest one-act musical play that poke[s] fun at longstanding Latin women stereotypes—from Carmen Miranda to Cuchi Cuchi Charo to suffering black-shrouded women crying and praying over their tortillas to modern-day young Latinas trying to re-define their images." Although it was published in 1991 in two acts, Prida would nevertheless call the work a one-act play owing to its brevity.
Like most of Prida's subsequent plays, Beautiful Señoritas is both comic and serious and has been staged many times. Prida is, indeed, a well-established American dramatist, and most large libraries hold volumes of at least some of her plays. Beautiful Señoritas can be found in the volume titled Beautiful Señoritas & Other Plays, published by Arte Publico Press (1991).
Beautiful Señoritas opens with the character Don José pacing nervously and smoking a cigar. From what he says, the audience learns that he is awaiting the birth of a child, whom he expects to be a boy. On receiving the news that the child is a girl, he expresses disappointment and disgust. The man's masculine self-regard and disdain for things female set the tone for Prida's play about women's second-class status in traditional Latino and Latin American cultures.
Four Beautiful Señoritas take the place of Don José on stage. They speak nonsensically, sprinkling their speech with Spanish words. While dancing, they sing a song that, despite its nonsensical portions, still conveys coherent ideas: namely, that in the eyes of non-Latinos, Latino culture in the United States is a clichéd group of notions, among which is the female stereotype that Latin women are "always ready for Amor [Love]."
The four Señoritas exit the stage, and two different female characters, María la O and the Beauty Queen, appear. They are in a dressing room at a venue hosting a beauty pageant. They converse about their chances of making money by banking on their good looks. They exit, and the Midwife and Girl enter. As the Midwife speaks of the worries of women who rely on their beauty, the Girl sits at the dressing table at which María la O was seated earlier. She applies makeup, her back to the audience. Once the Midwife stops speaking, the Girl turns to face the audience. Her face is painted like a clown's.
A Master of Ceremonies (MC) takes the stage. He is presiding over a beauty pageant somewhere in the United States. The contestants are Miss Little Havana, Miss Chili Tamale, Miss Conchita Banana, and Miss Commonwealth. All of them, save Miss Commonwealth, sing a short song when they are introduced. They play up to the MC, who asks them ridiculous questions. They also all take the roles of different Women characters immediately after they appear as contestants. As Women characters, they express their inner thoughts and dreams.
A Man enters with a chair, places it in the center of the stage, and sits on it. The Girl enters and sits at the edge of the stage with her back to the audience. She is followed onstage by four Catch Women, who sit around the Man. As they speak, it is as if they are instructing the girl. They talk of how to tantalize and confuse men. When they have finished, the Man sings a song about how the women "do it all" for him: "They do it all...
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